Remember Tatman and Burchfield

The weekend of November 25 and 26, 2017 mark the 50th and 64th anniversaries of two police officers featured on this blog: Robert Lawrence Tatman and Richard Stanley Burchfield. Both Tatman and Burchfield were killed in the line of duty. Both were shot. Both were young husbands. Both were young fathers.

Robert Lawrence Tatman

Robert Lawrence Tatman

Robert Lawrence Tatman

Champaign (Illinois) Police Officer Robert Lawrence Tatman was found murdered on November 25, 1967. This is the 50th anniversary of his death.

Tatman was shot with his .38 service revolver. Many were puzzled that Tatman’s service revolver was the murder weapon. I see two scenarios: someone was capable of taking the revolver out of either Tatman’s hands or, his holster.

Taking the gun out of Tatman’s hands does not seem likely. It would mean that at some point he had his gun drawn. In that case, he would probably have mentioned the possibility of trouble, when he radioed this stop. In a scenario where Tatman would resist, I assume that it is more likely that the person who shot Tatman was a man.

The other scenario, that the gun was taken out of his holster, suggests that somehow his gun was either not well secured in the holster or that the holster was defective. In this scenario the person who shot Tatman could be a woman. A woman could have completely surprised Tatman, thus giving her, for a few seconds, the upper hand in an argument. This would also explain why Tatman did not expect any trouble, did not ask for back up, when he radioed he was going to make a stop.

Significant efforts were made by police, the family, and the community to solve this case. The revolver went missing making a review with modern technology difficult.

Tatman was only 27 years old when he died. He was happily married with four children.

Richard Burchfield

Richard Burchfield

Richard Stanley Burchfield

Colorado Springs (Colorado) Patrol Officer Richard Stanley Burchfield was shot dead on November 26, 1953. This marks the 64th anniversary of his death.

An unknown suspect used a .22 caliber handgun during an armed robbery investigation near 1600 N. Wood Ave. That robbery was part of a pattern that had plagued the area. Burchfield was part of a team investigating that series of armed robberies and he had checked the area for suspects. He radioed dispatch that he was returning to headquarters around 7:55pm. He never came in.

Officers found him shot in the driver’s seat of his own squad car. Burchfield had died of eight gunshot wounds: behind the right ear, over the right eye, once in the right cheek, twice in the right shoulder, and three times in the right arm. The shots suggest that he was shot by someone in the passenger seat or from the back seat.

Nine shells, (along with the bullets identified by the FBI lab as coming from a Colt Woodsman automatic .22 caliber pistol) were found in the car. If those shells have been preserved, they should be re-examined one more time with modern technology to make sure nothing was missed.

After I first posted about Burchfield I received this question by email: “In the picture, the officer wore his weapon at high-rise, cross-draw, on his left, making it available to either hand and away from his passengers. Do we know if the gun was still holstered with the flap snapped when he was found?” I asked the department and was told that “Burchfield’s gun was still holstered.”

Burchfield was only 34 years old when he died. He was happily married with three children.

We celebrate Thanksgiving and are excited for the upcoming Holiday Season. But let’s make sure that during those busy, joyful days we do not forget the ones we lost.